Lowry shows integrity and ethical consistency
I have often said that your belief in freedom and your respect for human rights is tested by your willingness to defend the freedom and support the rights of people you just flat despise.
This will tend to put one in uncomfortable and embarrassing situations from time to time. If you for example, defend the free speech rights of neo-Nazis, you know people are going to accuse you of being one.
Legendary journalist and uncompromising defender of freedom H.L. Mencken said, “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”
I don’t think you find much of that kind of integrity around these days. There seem to be an awful lot of people in public life who condemn the same actions of people they dislike, that they excuse or actively justify in people they like.
We all remember the story of the Boston Massacre from our American History classes. The incident in 1750 when British soldiers fired on a mob, killing five men. The incident was used as propaganda by the pro-independence party to raise the tensions that led to the outbreak of revolution five years later.
I wonder how many people remember that the soldiers were defended on murder charges by John Adams, a fierce patriot and later first vice-president and second president of the United States?
Adams won the acquittal of six of the soldiers and succeeded in getting the sentence of two reduced to manslaughter, punished by a branding on the hand.
Adams wanted independence, but genuinely believed the soldiers were innocent of the charges. He was willing to kill them on the field of battle, but would not sully the cause of independence with an injustice, nor corrupt the law to serve an agenda.
But I’ve just found a contemporary example. Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative publication National Review, has an article, “John Edwards: Slimy, not criminal.”
Edwards is currently facing some pretty serious charges of violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to his mistress and mother of his love child, while his wife was dying of cancer.
In the public sphere he has essentially no defenders. His own party has dropped him like a hot rock, and former friends and aids are testifying against him.
Lowry makes no secret of the fact that he thinks Edwards is a detestable human being. But he also lays out in detail why Edwards’ actions, though morally reprehensible, are not criminal.
“If Edwards were being prosecuted for shameful dereliction of duty as a husband and father, he’d deserve 30 years of hard labor. If he were on trial for extreme oleaginous insincerity, he’d deserve to be sent to the nearest supermax prison. If he could be charged with running two faux-populist presidential campaigns (first in 2004, then in 2008) that were all about stroking his own ego, he’d deserve to hang at dawn.
“None of these things is a criminal offense, though. And neither is paying hush money to your mistress. In the case of United States of America v. Johnny Reid Edwards, it is the United States of America that is out of line…
“The prosecution is a naked exercise in attempting to punish a loathsome man for his loathsomeness. As such, it is an offense against the rule of law, which depends on clear rules and dispassionate judgments. Every wrong — even flagrant wrongs, played out in public and involving mind-boggling deceit — is not a crime. By stretching the laws to try to reach Edwards, the government is creating the precedent for future ambiguous, politicized prosecutions, perhaps of figures much less blameworthy than the reviled man currently in the dock.
“John Edwards belongs under a rock, but not in jail.”
Good for you Lowry! Whether one agrees or disagrees with your politics, that shows integrity and ethical consistency.
And hey, you gotta love a writer who can use phrases like, “oleaginous insincerity.”